Mont Blanc Compared to 14ers

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Mowgli77
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Mont Blanc Compared to 14ers

Post by Mowgli77 » Thu Mar 23, 2017 9:28 pm

Hi, I am thinking of attempting to summit Mont Blanc this Summer in late June. My son and I have climbed many 14ers in Colorado including several of the more interesting climbs, so we feel we have a good experience level. We are trying to see if Mont Blanc can be compared to any of the Mts here in CO. I am wondering if anyone who has climbed Mont Blanc via Gouter can provide any type of comparison to any of the 14ers here in CO. I wish Gerry Roach had a write up with Route Points, he is always right. Thanks
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cattoes
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Re: Mont Blanc Compared to 14ers

Post by cattoes » Thu Mar 23, 2017 10:59 pm

"Hi, I am thinking of attempting to summit Mont Blanc this Summer in late June. My son and I have climbed many 14ers in Colorado including several of the more interesting climbs, so we feel we have a good experience level. We are trying to see if Mont Blanc can be compared to any of the Mts here in CO. I am wondering if anyone who has climbed Mont Blanc via Gouter can provide any type of comparison to any of the 14ers here in CO. I wish Gerry Roach had a write up with Route Points, he is always right. Thanks"

I climbed Mont Blanc about 10 years ago, so use that as a beginning data point.

How does it compare? From an endurance standpoint, it is longer. It isn't necessarily a lot harder, it is longer. You need to have winter mountaineering skills if you climb early season, do a few winter 14ers or get training to be proficient with ice axe, crampons and winter rope techniques.

A few sections of note that are still pretty vivid for me:

-There is a section called the Bowling Ally where boulders routinely spontaneously launch from above. There were two hiker tracks where hikers dashed across, one at a time so as not to dislodge more rocks on the hiker on the track/trail adjacent. There was a lot of people yelling for "Pierre's" in the area (french for Rock or Stone).
-There were ladders that were interesting to negotiate with a heavy pack.
-The Gouter Hut was kind of a pit and the bathroom was Unisex so that was a European Eye Opener for the Iowa Farm Girl. They sell beer! :iluvbeer: which was a Godsend as we got snowed in for three nights at the hut. Got to play a lot of cards with boys from Belgium \:D/ and rummage through the English language to describe different routes we have done or wanted to do. Bring ear plugs for the hut. :shock: :deadhorse: The food wasn't tasty but I didn't expect The Brown Palace at 12 or 14k. The mountaineering partner I was with was from England and we didn't know each other well. He wanted to go down as the hut was made of tin and the sound of the wind on the tin was causing his head to spin. :lol: He said he was going to go down now, I said I was going to wait and go up in the morning with the Belgium Boys so we compromised and left for the summit at dusk to get up to the Vallot emergency shelter before dark. After the Gouter Hut we roped up. The whole route is indescribably beautiful, but the col above the hut was especially stunning. The photos at sunset are etched in my memory forevermore. The Emergency shelter was interesting as we thought we would be the only ones there. I think it could have comfortably handled 15 or so people. There must have been 40 or more crammed along the walls like sardines. Being one of the only females, a sea of floor parted when I donned my sleeping bag out of my pack. :iluvu: :iluvu: It was quite cold :brrr: and we planned on staying just a few hours. Poor Jim was crammed with his knees in his nose but I couldn't do much to fix it. I was enjoying my full body stretch with my mummy face cinched down completely when I felt something moving up and down my bag. What? A rat, no, too big, slow and deliberate in movement. One of those weird European altitude mammals? Yes, it was! It was Andy from Austria groping the outside of my sleeping bag. The only words we effectively exchanged before, I thought, we were going to sleep were our names and country of origination. At this point I was quite tired :sleep: and happy to oblige Andy a grope to the top of my bag knowing his catch was hot stinky mountaineering clothes, not hot sexy Victorias Secret. We left about 2am from the emergency hut. There was a caravan starting in front of us so we ditched to the side and blazed our own trail to catch the sunrise on the summit. It was just like Christmas, breath taking and worth every inch. =D> The Europeans were drinking heavily and smoking cigars. As were leaving a team came up carrying different parts of a hot tub that they set up to melt snow, bask and party. Fun folks.
In short, the spots that are still vivid that caught my attention: Bowling Ally, ladders to the Gouter Hut (keep in mind I chose not to use the cable as I was on a mission to prove I was a tough girl), the serracs could have been spicy but we navigated them pretty well (Jim, my partner, had been up Mont Blanc eight times in the last two years), negotiating the caravan as we wanted to zoom to the summit.

Hope that helps a little. I am sure much has changed.
I am a nurse, not sure the age of your son, but consider his developing brain x the number of hours being somewhat anoxic at altitude. If he is a teenager, don't worry about the anoxic hit and get him hooked on mountains vs letting ganja couch potato status over take him. :wink:
Impossible is just an opinion.
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Re: Mont Blanc Compared to 14ers

Post by desertdog » Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:22 am

I really enjoyed my climb of Mont Blanc and Chamonix was a great town to hang out in.

When I read your post I struggled to come up with a CO 14er that is similar. To me Mont Blanc is much more like a climb in the Cascades. A little easier than Rainier, but much higher. There is an Class 3 ridge right after the hut, and a narrow snow covered ridge right before the summit, also a steep gully to cross, but that is about it. We saw no crevasses during our climb, but that can change of course.

The thing that stuck out to me was how cold it was, even in July when we climbed it.

If you plan to stay in the huts there is a reservation system and they fill up quickly.

If you have specific questions PM me and I would be glad to give you any info you need. Richard
The summit is a source of power. The long view gives one knowledge and time to prepare. The summit, by virtue of the dizzying exposure, leaves one vulnerable. A bit of confidence and a dash of humility is all we get for our work. Yet to share these moments with friends is to be human. C. Anker
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kevintheclimber
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Re: Mont Blanc Compared to 14ers

Post by kevintheclimber » Fri Mar 24, 2017 9:34 am

Mont Blanc is a classic climb. I agree with what the person above said- its more like of a cascade climb than a 14er. The best comparison would be Mt. Rainier...both are pretty even in terms of difficulty. If you are good at slogging across vast expanses of snow then you guys are solid.
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Re: Mont Blanc Compared to 14ers

Post by TomPierce » Fri Mar 24, 2017 10:45 am

I haven't climbed Mont Blanc but have been very close by on other climbs, and have climbed many times in the Alps. Fully agree the better comparison is to Rainier; glaciated peaks are in a different class. That aside, the differences that I think you'll notice Rockies vs. Alps:

-Alps are noticeably colder. Certainly not Alaska-cold, but IMO way colder than a 14er in the summer. Doubt you'll be in shorts and a t-shirt. :lol:
-They are icier. Not 100% ice everywhere by any means, but much, much icier than a 14er. And if you start early before sunrise or get stuck out at night when the sun goes down, even more so. You need to be comfortable wearing crampons, eg don't let them snag your pants, tripping you, etc.
-Some people, esp guides, can be rude. Get used to it.
-Yep, ear plugs for the huts, maybe your own slippers/booties. Food is OK, but as mentioned not great. Reservations in the summer are a must for huts on heavily climbed routes.

But have a great time! Tons of climbing history there, spectacular scenery!

-Tom
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Re: Mont Blanc Compared to 14ers

Post by pvnisher » Sat Mar 25, 2017 7:46 am

I agree with the above, but think rainier was more technical, with many crevasse crossings. Mint blanc was long, cold, and high. I saw people wearing Himalayan down suits. Unnecessary, but I was cold and I was in nepal evo, three pants, and my belay parka.
They were building the new hut when I left, it looked amazing.
My partner had trouble with the altitude, sitting in the snow a few times. And we had spent 4 nights at cosmiques, climbing around that side.
We got stuck behind some slow groups and could not pass.
For a Colorado comparison, perhaps front side pikes in winter. That's obviously more miles, especially from the hut, but the effort might be comparable.
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Re: Mont Blanc Compared to 14ers

Post by dmxgrrbark » Tue Mar 28, 2017 12:41 pm

I climbed Mont Blanc in mid July last year and did the Gouter Router. The closest CO 14er I would compare it to is Blanca/Ellingwood combo in spring snow conditions - but even that isn't totally accurate. It's a long slog and not too technical other than some scrambling moves in the "Gran Couloir" leading to the Gouter Refuge and some fairly steep (over 30 degrees) snow sections leading to the summit. Climbing down from the Gouter Refuge was fairly sketchy when we did it due to fresh snow/ice from a storm during the afternoon/late evening the night before we summited. We didn't encounter any falling rocks while negotiating the most dangerous section of the gran couloir, which is just a little ways above the Tete Rousse Refuge. I think you should be safe from rockfall in June, but you will probably face a more sketchy (ie decent snow and ice) climb up to the Gouter Refuge. When we were there our guide said there was still significant snowpack on the trail leading up Tete Rousse, but was bone dry during our climb. There is significant snow pack from the Gouter Refuge onwards to the summit. We encountered a single crevasse towards the summit but didn't have to do anything special to navigate around it.

I second the recommendation to bring ear plugs. It's worth sleeping up in Gouter Refuge, imo. I wouldn't want to climb the gran couloir in the dark AND have to continue to the summit and back. That would be beyond my endurance.

Here's how our climb went (times are a little fuzzy from memory):

[*] Met up with guide in Saint Gervais at 700am (we hired a french speaking guide for 800 split between myself and my SO)
[*] Drove to Le Houches and took the ski lift up where we caught the train halfway up the mountain around 745/8am
[*] Took train to the highest point and started our hike around 830/9am
[*] Reached Tete Rousse around 11/1130am - the trail to here was bone dry and a well marked trail through a rather barren rock field
[*] Climbed the Gran Couloir, lots of fun scrambling, plenty of fixed lines if you want to use them, at one point early on we had to dash across a section to avoid rockfall, nothing too intense and the conditions were bone dry
[*] Reached the Gouter Refuge somewhere between 1pm and 2pm - accommodations were much nicer than I expected and food was satisfactory.
[*] Went to bed around 7/8pm - It was quite noisy at night (lot of people coughing, snoring, twisting and turning in bed) so ear plugs were a god send for me
[*] Woke up at 130am and hurriedly got dressed. Don't expect to be able to use the bathroom at this time
[*] Light breakfast of toast, yogurt, and oatmeal at 2am
[*] One of the first groups out and we started our hike at 230am - it was rather surreal. There were no clouds and a full moon so the whole mountain was lit up like a ghost.
[*] Reached the Vallot Hut around 4:30am and paused here for hot tea, a snack, and to catch our breath. The place was filled with trash and smelled like piss. Not very pleasant.
[*] Summited around 6/630am - right when sun was rising. Truly magical. We were the first group to summit that day and had the place to ourselves for about 5 minutes. Spent maybe 10 minutes at the summit before turning around. Boy were we tired!
[*] Back to Gouter around 830am, paused for a break
[*] Back to Tete Rousse by 11am after a sketchy downclimb of an icy gran couloir. Stopped here for about an hour/hour and a half for lunch and a well needed rest
[*] Glissaded down the glacier and back to the train station by 1pm

I took a ton of pictures and still have them on my phone. I can throw them on imagur or something if you'd like to see pictures of hike.
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Re: Mont Blanc Compared to 14ers

Post by Mowgli77 » Tue Mar 28, 2017 5:18 pm

Hello All! Thank you so much for the time you each took to share experiences. It is very helpful and entertaining! My son (age 17) and I are still seriously considering the trip. Any suggestions on the need for a guide? Thank You again for the responses! Climb on!
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Re: Mont Blanc Compared to 14ers

Post by pvnisher » Tue Mar 28, 2017 5:51 pm

Re: guide
If you haven't climbed things like rainier without a guide, then get one.
The hut system is nice but reservations and languages can be troublesome until you figure it out. Knowing some of the logistics like the telepherique, huts, train to nid aingle, climb times, etc... It is all doable, but takes a lot of research.
If you don't have the local experience, or the climbing experience on similar mountains, then a guide will be worth it.
Then once you figure it out a bit you can do similar ones on your own.
Going with a guide is also a learning experience. But you have to pay attention. They aren't there to teach (most often).
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Re: Mont Blanc Compared to 14ers

Post by dmxgrrbark » Tue Mar 28, 2017 6:39 pm

I second getting a guide unless you feel confident climbing something like Rainier unguided. Also - don't be afraid to shop around if the guides seem really expensive. Guides based out of Chamonix will definitely cost a lot more than the guides based out of smaller outfits in the surrounding areas.
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Re: Mont Blanc Compared to 14ers

Post by wwwojtek » Wed Mar 29, 2017 9:48 am

I went up Mont Blanc via Gouter route last summer. I took a guide and would recommend that unless you have glacier/steep snow climb experience. Having said that, it's not particularly difficult, just a long (in terms of elevation gain - 8000 feet - not physical distance) schlep. As others mentioned, the scramble is some work though it will depend on conditions - with snow, ice or rain parts of it may be sketchy, in August when we did it, it was just fun. Higher up it is steep and occasionally exposed. Crevasses happen though the trail is well travelled and it is unlikely that you'll be surprised. Still, you should be roped in for most of it. The part that's truly sketchy is the couloir - see here https://www.petzl.com/fondation/projets ... anguage=en. It is short but you have to cross it and it is in motion, rocks tumble often. You just run through it and hope for the best. There are better and worse times but it's never safe.
The Gouter hut is very nice. It's brand new so some comments above don't really apply - 3 years ago it was very different
I've done 11 14ers, all in the summer - very different because of the weather and snow in the Alps. Mont Blanc is a bit more mountaineering than hike, though there is nothing technical - you just need crampons, ice axe and basic safety (rope, harness). It's also somewhat higher so paying attention to acclimatization helps.
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